the revelations of the keepsake box

As you may recall, I am getting ready to move. (Do you want to come sit on my couch in my apartment?)

The moving process involves plenty of packing, of course, but since most of my worldly possessions are contained in a 5 by 15 cell on Poplar Avenue -- not 201, thankfully -- I've turned my attention to the cleaning-out and getting-rid-of portion of our program. Quite aggressively.

(To be fair, "quite aggressively" is really the only way I've ever done it. For someone who has saved just about everything I ever breathed on as a child that I thought might mean something to me as an adult, I am oddly cutthroat about tossing things in the garbage when it comes time to trim the fat. TRIM IT! Trim it, I say.)

Underneath my bed at my parents' house, there were four separate keepsake boxes. FOUR. And there are a few more in the attic and at least one more in the closet, not to mention the keepsake box that's in storage. (I think there's only one in there.) After a particularly successful session last night, I consolidated the under-the-bed holdings into just one solitary box. It was a proud moment, y'all.

Some of the things I'd held onto in those boxes, you just would not believe. I have two words for you: Payne. Stewart. Yes. Payne Stewart. He made me love golf. Admittedly, it had a lot to do with his fashion choices, but we all come to the light in different ways, right? Inside my scrapbook, the scrapbook where I kept spelling bee certificates and citizenship awards and documentation of pretty much everything vaguely consequential that happened to me between the second grade and high school, was a two-page newspaper story about the death of Payne Stewart. TWO EFFING PAGES. I had carefully cut them out, trimmed around the edges, and taped them both into my scrapbook. Probably next to an honor society induction invitation.

Of course, beyond the downright absurd, I also found in this keepsake box (like every one I've ever had) pages and pages of writing. There was a three-ring binder from my high school creative writing class with dozens of free-writing prompt exercises, written in various sparkly colors of gel pen. There was my portfolio from three years on the high school newspaper staff, with literally every article I ever wrote for The Panther's Prey. And then there was a journal, a beautiful journal whose origin I would've forgotten altogether if it weren't for the inscription. It had been a gift from my third grade teacher. She gave it to me when I was 17, working for the local newspaper. I'd written a story about her, and she took me to lunch a few months later and gave me this journal.

I had written in it just a few times, but I could tell from the care I'd taken with my penmanship that I had intended for it to become a collection of sorts, something I would be proud or willing to show someone someday. Mostly, they were the random musings of a high school senior. But there was one entry that caught me. It was about music.

It was about the way I feel when I discover new music, the way my ears feel when they're swimming in new sounds. The way I feel when I walk into a record store. The way I feel when I create music. And then, very abruptly, I'd written: "Someone asked me today if I was passionate about journalism. I hesitated."

I went on to push at all the big questions: is this really what I want to be doing? Is what I've always planned for my life and my career the right thing for me? Do I love this or not? Does that matter?

It's such an odd thing, the time traveling that personal writing like this can allow you to do. Plenty of times in my 20s, after college, after grad school, I wondered those things. I wondered if this career that I'd always thought I wanted was really what I was meant to be doing. And ultimately I chose to leave it behind, when I had opportunities to keep working for daily or weekly newspapers and made the decision to pursue something different. I wouldn't say I'm one to second guess myself, but I am one to wonder.

As much as I love what I'm doing now, I still wonder. All the time.

But it seems like even then, I knew that this was where I was supposed to be. I threw a lot of things out of that keepsake box last night, but the journal is still there. I think it always will be.